Journey into the captivating lower South Island to uncover an unforgettable mix of rare wildlife, remote rugged lands, and delicious seafood. The Southern Scenic Route will take you off the beaten path to discover stunning deserted coastlines, majestic fiords and welcoming locals.
Travel from Christchurch to Dunedin down the picturesque coastal road to start Southern Scenic Route. Spend some time in Dunedin immersed in wildlife of all kinds(opens in new window); New Zealand fur seals & sea lions(opens in new window), yellow-eyed penguins(opens in new window), and the only mainland royal albatross colony(opens in new window) in the world.
Further down the coast from Dunedin wander the 5-minute path to Nugget Point lighthouse and marvel the steep headland and rocky islets (The Nuggets). Enjoy amazing views along the coastline, visit the famous Pūrākaunui Falls, and look out for fur seals (opens in new window)lolling about in rock pools and generally having fun.
Invercargill is a gateway to some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery and destinations including the Southland heartland, Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary(opens in new window). Take an easy ferry ride to the island sanctuary to meet unique wildlife in their native habitat(opens in new window). Local food specialties in Invercargill include Bluff Oysters and blue cod(opens in new window) - they're a must try!
This picturesque drive skirts the eastern boundary of Fiordland National Park and the rugged south coast, providing an introduction to southern parts of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Visit Te Hikoi Southern Journey(opens in new window) to learn about Riverton's bi-cultural past and stop over in Tuatapere for many points of natural and historic interest along the route, and varied opportunities for recreation – tramping, mountain biking(opens in new window), trout fishing(opens in new window), hunting(opens in new window), boating(opens in new window) and caving. Arriving in the township of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park, you will find a variety of activities such as the glowworm caves(opens in new window), Te Anau Bird Sanctuary(opens in new window) and the Ata Whenua movie(opens in new window), plus a range of accommodation and restaurants. This is the perfect base to explore the majestic Milford(opens in new window) and Doubtful Sounds(opens in new window) on short walks, multi-day hikes(opens in new window) or boat cruises(opens in new window).
The road to Milford is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, or you can relax in a coach tour(opens in new window) and enjoy the local stories. The first part is relatively mild farmland, before you ease into beech forest near the entrance to the Fiordland National Park. Look for the Mirror Lakes, which offer amazing reflective views on a clear day. The rough hewn Homer Tunnel brings you into Milford Sound, an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak.
A cruise on Milford Sound(opens in new window) will be an essential component of your time in Fiordland; you can choose either a day trip or an overnight cruise(opens in new window) to really experience the beauty. Tall waterfalls, vertical rock faces and seals are some of the things you’ll remember. The underwater observatory(opens in new window) is an option with most cruises. If you opt for a day cruise, head back to Te Anau to spend the night; it has a wide range of accommodation(opens in new window) and restaurants on offer.
The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting and fantastically attractive. Nestled on the shores of the stunning Lake Wakatipu, it is the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating(opens in new window), horse trekking(opens in new window), rafting(opens in new window) and river surfing(opens in new window). It’s also a destination for luxury experiences – gourmet food and award-winning vineyards to visit by bike(opens in new window) or car, indulge in spa treatments and leisurely games of golf(opens in new window).
Getting around New Zealand is easy with familiar road signs and a great range of transport options available.
There are plenty of accommodation options for every budget and travel style.
Visit in spring or autumn to enjoy warm weather, lower prices and short queues.